I have a favorite and true story, sitting in a train station late at night. The station is under renovation. Plywood walls are erected between some of the tracks and platforms. A man sits on a bench: dark glasses, cane, veteran’s cap. I know he cannot see. He stands and signs ‘peace’ as a train rattles through the basement terminal two platforms over. He signals to the onboard passengers, though none can see him because of a plywood barricade he does not know is there.
I play such events over and over again, letting them insinuate their way into essays and fictions such that each time the perspective shifts, the definition of obstacle, perception, and audience changes. I am interested in how these very real architectures drive narrative events, how essay and story cross-pollinate, how a sequence of appropriated boxes shapes character, how travel makes for the most beautifully flawed thing in this world, a first conversation. I’ve never met a person with a tiny house who doesn’t love to host a party. I’ve never met a room that hasn’t told me where to sit, or convinced me it didn’t hold something back, an unexpected depth, danger, or vulnerability. The train station is always under renovation in ways that are invisible, and none of us can see all the obstacles.
I have made a career traveling and writing as the outsider among paleontologists, entomologists, visual artists, meteorologists—living on unfamiliar terrain, writing in a place sometimes as fog-shrouded and quiet as an active volcano, sometimes as pressurized and spot-lit as a climate conference. These architectures expose both possibilities and limitations, scenes that fall into narrative, sometimes appearing in multiple works, subtly changed, grossly evolved. I am not so much interested in illuminating obstacle as witnessing how we cope with them, or as is often the case, learning whose boundaries these are. Often, they have been here some time. A place only becomes real when we are in that conversation.
This is why I make art, to meditate on the practice of conversation, to wonder at its architecture, what is spoken and what is unspoken, and what is the difference. My writing almost always arises out of motion, turning corners on a street, turning over rocks on a river bank. Every so often I return to that train station. In these cities, there’s always some renovation, a rethinking, a door that no longer goes someplace, a corridor that has grown narrower, some turn prior experience has taught me not to see coming.